Agro-processors are the people that transform milk into cheese, chili into chili extract, and bananas into banana flavouring. Agro-processing is therefore a key appendage of the East African Agri sector, because processing agricultural products increases their value. Thanks to this value addition, goods become viable for export and contribute more to economic growth and Sustainable Development.
However, agro-processing companies need a number of certifications before their products can be sold to the international market. In particular, the S Mark is needed to sell products throughout the European Union.
Ishyo Food Ltd is a Rwandan food and dairy processing company that produces high quality fruit jams and fruit yoghurt. It is founded in 2017, headed up by women entrepreneur Sharon Akanyana. However, without food safety certification, the company has only been able to sell their goods domestically.
Through the Mitreeki Agro-processor Advancement Programme (MAAP), SITA has been supporting agro-processing companies in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, assisting them to make the operational changes needed to get this game-changing certification. Ishyo Food Ltd participated in MAAP in 2019. Since then, the company has made the journey towards meeting the S-Mark criteria. In November 2020, the Ishyo yoghurt products got its S-Mark certification, which means the company can now market itself and legally sell to overseas markets!
“Mitreeki classes were very helpful for my company: they provided excellent capacity building for my employees on the processes of food processing hygiene and safety”, reflected Ms Akanyana. “We have improved our standard processing procedures and now we have our S-Mark.”
The rest of this article provides a snapshot of how Ishyo’s success has all come together, thanks to SITA’s support.
The S-Mark certifies that the attributes, characteristics, quality, or status of goods are in accordance with established standards. If verifies that product quality is consistent, thanks to defined operating systems. Therefore, once the product has the corresponding ‘CE’ marking and the required documentation, it can be sold anywhere in the continent without constant testing. The certification covers foods and beverages, construction materials, cosmetics, paper-based products and other industrial products.
What are the benefits for Ishyo Food Ltd?
The S-Mark unlocks opportunities for exporting: it is not possible to sell goods in Europe without CE on the label. Back in Africa, the S-Mark is a powerful marketing tool for all manufacturer: displaying the mark gives a product real point-of-sale differentiation. For these reasons, the Mark also provides credibility to get high profile contracts at home (e.g., as a supplier to the Rwandan government).
As well as resulting in more sales, S-Mark provides better procedures for complaints’ handling, which cuts costs long-term and increases customer satisfaction.
How does MAAP support agripreneurs?
Women entrepreneurs are up against a similar set of challenges that are specific to East Africa. SITA designed the MAAP curriculum in direct response to the needs of East African agroprocessors. MAAP provided technical, business and financial management trainings through group and individual mentoring sessions. Women not only build their skills, they also change their behaviours and approach to come away with more effective business practices, for example: install a system to reduce costs; successfully apply for grants, loans or placement schemes; pitch to investors and bid for contracts; develop new or existing products; access new markets by engaging with buyers and suppliers, following up inquiries, and signing deals.
The bigger picture?
Ms Akanyana, of Ishyo Foods Ltd, is one of 90 entrepreneurs who have received SITA’s support through MAAP. In East Africa, more people are engaged in agricultural work than any other sector/industry. By supporting the sector to develop and strengthen, millions stand to be lifted out of poverty through access to decent work – Sustainable Development Goal 8.